Twenty-eight months had transpired between D.C. United's last visit to BC Place to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Judging from the mostly frazzled gameplay both sides mustered on the night, it might be for the best if that long break is repeated. Vancouver had arguably the better chances, but in truth the 0-0 scoreline tonight's game produced was a fair result in what turned out to be a classic "turf game."
In the more frenetic first half, Vancouver was in charge in the opening half-hour despite playing a new-look 4132 formation. Striker Darren Mattocks skied an 11th minute chance over the bar, but only a minute later produced the miss of the night. A United corner kick was initially loose in the Whitecaps box, but following a clearance Vancouver launched a jailbreak counter-attack. Sebastian Fernandez's low cross from the left had open runners at the top of the six but was blocked by Steve Birnbaum. However, the ball fell right to Mattocks, who had Bill Hamid at his mercy only to fire over while leaning back.
After about 25 rough minutes, United slowly grew into the game. Taylor Kemp unleashed a heavy shot in the 27th minute from a long distance that keeper David Ousted could only block. The ensuing rebound was juicy, but no United player was far enough forward to have the opportunity to pounce.
That shot sparked chances at both ends. Pedro Morales whipped in a teasing free kick in the 31st minute that both Mattocks and towering center back Kendall Waston were both inches from directing past Hamid, while Fabian Espindola headed a Davy Arnaud corner wide in the 35th minute. Espindola went closer a minute later, ripping a shot that forced Ousted to tip the ball just over the bar.
United's best attack of the night was to follow. Nick DeLeon and Sean Franklin exchanged passes before Franklin played the ball square to Perry Kitchen. Kitchen quickly picked up on Luis Silva's lateral run across the top of the box, and Silva cleverly chopped a first-time pass against the grain to the left side of the box. Espindola was wide open, but opted to clip the ball up over Ousted rather than simply punch it in low. Ousted, to his credit, was out quickly and stayed big enough that Espindola's chip attempt couldn't get up over his hand without also clearing the crossbar.
After a brief tiff between Espindola and Morales saw the Chilean win the argument by cheekily playing a free kick off of the Argentine's back, United escaped another Whitecaps counter. David Estrada coughed the ball up near the top of the Vancouver box, and the hosts surged forward quickly enough to create a 4v4 break forward. Mauro Rosales sent a possibly offside Mattocks in behind the defense, but his hard shot from the right side of the box was tipped over by Hamid in what was probably the best save either keeper had all night.
The Whitecaps came out of the locker room looking to score quickly. Morales had time and space in the 47th minute to crack a shot from about 25 yards out on goal, but it was straight at Hamid. Three minutes later, Morales put Russel Teibert into a great position down the left flank. His hard cross was met by sprinting left back Jordan Harvey, who dove in ahead of Bobby Boswell but nodded the ball barely wide of Hamid's right-hand post.
Vancouver kept their back four deep all night - perhaps after watching United's lethal counter-attacking play destroy Sporting Kansas City - and United started to find ways to take advantage. After a long spell of possession, Arnaud slid the ball out left to Kemp, who had acres of space to surge into the box. Unfortunately, Kemp only had an angle to shoot with his less-favored right foot, and his effort was ballooned over the bar.
On the hour mark, United did put the ball past Ousted, but it would not count. Espindola chased down a bouncing ball in the Vancouver box, but appeared to foul Sam Adekugbe by pulling him down by the arm. The whistle had gone, but no one on the field heard it, so Espindola took a shot that Ousted saved, and Estrada ran onto the ball to lace a shot low and in. Other than a typically cantankerous reaction from Espindola, there was little disputing the call.
The Whitecaps would push back with another cross from the left wing. This time, it was Adekugbe in the 67th minute, and rather than Harvey nodding wide it was Mattocks arriving just half a second late.
Both clubs made subs - Vancouver going with two at once - in the 69th minute, and within minutes both sides changed in mood. United appeared to be out of gas and attempted to take the air out of the ball, while the Whitecaps immediately became hurried and desperate.
"Hurried and desperate" took the game over, with substitute Kekuta Manneh seeing a lot of the ball but not thinking quickly enough to make much of an impact. In the end, the only real dangers ended up being physical. Hamid spent two minutes receiving treatment following a collision inside the United box, while Arnaud - who offered up a man-of-the-match performance in United's engine room - needed a minute after he and Mehdi Ballouchy crashed into each other near midfield.
With the 0-0 draw, United finished up their games against the Western Conference for the season (barring a run to the MLS Cup final). However, thanks to KC's loss to the Red Bulls earlier in the evening, the draw has given the Black-and-Red a five-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and a cushion of fourteen points ahead of sixth place Toronto FC. Up next for United is a Wednesday night trip to
RFK North Red Bull Arena to face the New York Red Bulls.